All posts by Graeme

Public Debate: Does the Bible restrict marriage to a man and a woman?

Dr James White and Graeme Codrington will engage in a public debate on the topic of “Does the Bible restrict marriage to a man and a woman?”
DATE: 17 August 2019
TIME: 6 – 8pm
VENUE: Fontainbleau Community Church, Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

There is NO COST to attend. The venue holds 750 people, on a first come first served basis. Doors open at 5:30pm.

The event will be livestreamed and recorded, and will be widely available for free afterwards.

Debate poster

Some Things To Consider If You Think Being Gay Is a Sin

I found an article on Patheos by Benjamin Corey that I think is important. While I believe that marriage is for every couple who love each other and wish to pledge before God to do so faithfully and monogamously, many Christians are still struggling to overcome a lifetime of cultural indoctrination against the LGBTQI community and gay marriage. As Christians, they need to be encouraged to do more than be judgemental towards gay people. Using their own conservative theology and world view, I believe we should appeal to them to adjust their attitude and actions towards gay people. This article is superb, as it presents five issues for conservatives to seriously consider. I hope they will.

Read it at Patheos, or a summary below:

Some Things To Consider If You Think Being Gay Is a Sin

Please consider that regardless of whether you’re able to fully accept this or not, there are gay Christians.

… Perhaps your theology on the issue might not ever change or evolve, but please know, these are real people you’re talking about. This isn’t just a “concept” or an inanimate object – these are real live Christian brothers and sisters that deserve every bit of love and empathy as anyone else. Maybe you haven’t counseled the teenager in your church who wants to kill themselves because they’re finally realizing that they’re gay and always have been. Maybe you haven’t had a friend weep in your presence over the fact that they realize they are gay, but also realize they did not choose to be – and that they’ll never be accepted by the tribe. Maybe you haven’t had a chance to serve in church for years on end next to someone who you never realized was in fact, gay the whole time and also unwavering in their love for Jesus and commitment to the church.

These things have happened to me, but I get that maybe you’ve never experienced them. So please, just consider that we are not talking about an “issue” here – we’re talking about real people. People created in the image and likeness of God. People with feelings, passions, hopes, and dreams. When we allow this to simply become an “issue” within modern Christian discourse, we end up dehumanizing the very real people we’re actually referencing.

Please become willing to reexamine what the Bible teaches on homosexuality.

Continue reading Some Things To Consider If You Think Being Gay Is a Sin

Part 17: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage? The slavery response.

SUMMARY:
The Bible does not say anything on the subject of women’s rights, and actually appears to say they should not lead or preach in church. Yet, in many churches they do. The Bible supports slavery, and never says anything to oppose it. Yet, no Christian today would support slavery (many did in the past). We can learn something from these two important social shifts that took place in the last two centuries, and how Christians had to change the way they read the Bible. These are both good analogies for what has to happen with regard to gay marriage.

In this section of our study on the Bible and LGBTQI issues, we’re looking at common objections to gay marriage. Once people have (at least sort of) realised that their seven “bash them” Bible verses don’t quite say what they thought they said, they go to the next set of arguments. We are dealing with these common objections now. The biggest one is: “where does the Bible affirm gay marriage”?

In the previous part of this study I looked at why this question is actually very bad theology. It wants the Bible to do something that the Bible doesn’t do, and it asks the Bible to provide answers for questions the Bible itself doesn’t ask. In other words, it breaks the rules of Biblical interpretation to try and answer this question in the way it has been asked. 

It is, however, a good question. After all, if we could find one verse that affirmed gay marriage, or one positive example of a gay relationship in the Bible, then there would be no argument. I agree. But, of course, if we could do that we wouldn’t have had the issue in the first place, so that point is a bit moot. 

In this section of our study I want to show you an even better way to answer this objection. Your response comes in the form of three questions: 

Continue reading Part 17: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage? The slavery response.

Part 16: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage?

Summary

Some people believe that if you can’t find something specifically mentioned in the Bible then God hasn’t said anything about it. This is a bad way to interpret the Bible. The Bible is not a Constitution and can’t be used like a legal textbook. The Bible does not specifically affirm gay marriage. Nor does it say anything against it. It is silent on the issue, but this does not mean that God has nothing to say about gay marriage.

Show me in the Bible…

Once people realise that the verses they use to ‘bash’ homosexuals are not as clear as they thought they were, the next step in trying to use the Bible to show that God is against gay marriage is to ask for definitive proof from the Bible that God endorses gay marriage:

“Just show me one verse that says God affirms gay marriage and we wouldn’t have a debate at all, would we.”

The logic is apparently simple: if the Bible doesn’t explicitly say something, and appears to say the opposite, then it should be easy to see what the Bible actually means.

The problem is that this is an exceedingly weak argument which is based on a dangerously bad approach to Biblical interpretation, and ignores church history and theological development.

Let me give you a few examples to prove this:

Continue reading Part 16: Dealing with Objections: Where does the Bible affirm same sex marriage?

I Can Twist All Scripture

James McGrath, writing on Patheos Blog on 3 Feb 2019, makes the following excellent points about how we have conceded the “Bible believing” label to literalists, fundamentalists and the bad type of evangelicals, all of whom badly abuse the Bible and regularly use cherry-picked Bible verses out of context. We need to call them out for what they are: the are not Bible-believers, they are Bible-abusers.

The Zondervan Academic blog explains the significance of words of Paul that are often taken out of context:

Just before Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength,” he recounts some of the different circumstances he’s found himself in: he’s been hungry and well-fed, he’s been in need and he’s been well off, and he’s learned to be content, no matter what his circumstances are.

Paul isn’t juxtaposing these circumstances to suggest that one is better than the other. He’s using these extremes to highlight that he understands the range of human experience, and that he understands the challenges that come with each position. He isn’t a rich person telling a poor person to be happy with what they have (or vise versa), and he’s not sitting there on a full stomach telling hungry people to get over it.

He’s saying that no matter what your circumstances are, you can learn to be content. How does he know? Because he’s tested it, and he’s proved it. How does he do it? That’s where verse 13 comes in.

If you read the NIV translation of verse 13, you’ll notice an important distinction from most other translations:

“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (emphasis added).

When we read “this” instead of “things,” it’s a lot more clear that the passage is referring to specific things—all the things Paul has been talking about—not “all things” in the sense that we can do anything.

… This verse is so incredibly popular in its distorted form in Christian fundamentalist circles, appearing on mugs and bumper stickers and t-shirts. It illustrates why I think it so important to not allow fundamentalist claims to be “Bible-believing Christians” to go unchallenged or be accepted at face value. They have a viewpoint adorned with biblical language taken out of its context, which is used sometimes to construct and sometimes merely to decorate their worldview which is in no sense simply that of any of the biblical authors, much less of all of them (as though they all agreed). Perhaps focusing in on this one example can help make that point. It is an important one, because unless challenged, what is said in the meme below often proves to be true: Christian fundamentalists can do all (kinds of) things through verses taken out of context.

Source: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2019/02/i-can-twist-all-scripture.html

Living the Truth in an Age of Lies

The Patheos blog posted an excellent article on gaslighting and how to deal with it. “Gaslighting” is a particular strategy of liars, who try and get you to question yourself and the truth. This article references Donald Trump, but I am also experiencing a lot of this in South Africa, with apartheid revisionists. These are people trying to get us to change our view of apartheid and say it wasn’t so bad – they’re doing this so as to not deal with racism’s legacy or acknowledge white guilt.

The full article is available here, or an excerpt below:

Gaslighting in the Age of Trump: 6 Tips for Survival

by Leah D. Schade, on July 30, 2018.

When the president’s lies destroy the very concept of truth and reality for a nation, we must resist the gaslighting and practice radical integrity.

It’s been 556 days since Donald Trump put his hand on a Bible and promised that he would “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, [to] preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Since then, that oath has been broken and the 8th Commandment violated. From the beginning, he asserted outright lies as truth, along with his press secretary and surrogates. For example, when the world could see in real-time the size of the crowd gathered for the inauguration and contrast that to pictures of a much larger crowd for Obama’s inauguration, we could obviously tell the difference. Yet they disputed reality right in front of our eyes, asserting “alternative facts.”

Since then, the Washington Post has counted over 3000 false or misleading claims made by the president as of May 2018, averaging 6 – 9 per day.

COMMENT FROM GRAEME: For the first time since taking office, the Washington Post fact checker has called one of Trump’s “falsehoods” a lie. They have not wanted to do this before because they define a lie as requiring “intent to deceive”. But now that Michael Cohen has said that he paid off porn stars to keep quiet at Trump’s request, The Washington Post can definitely say that Trump’s denials of this are lies. Read more here.

Most recently, Trump’s tactics seemed to come straight from George Orwell’s 1984 when he stated in a speech on July 24, 2018: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Esquire’s Jack Holmes explains the dangerous turn with this pernicious statement: “Lies that are not merely lies, but instead serve to destroy the very concept of truth, are a cornerstone of any authoritarian playbook.”

What is going on here?

In a word: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is the attempt of one person to overwrite another person’s reality. It is a tactic used for gaining power and control. The term gets its name from a 1938 play and 1944 film Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman in which her husband would secretly dim the gaslight, but when she commented on it, he insisted she must be crazy. And he convinced others she was insane as well. Thus, gaslighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a person or group of people.

Continue reading Living the Truth in an Age of Lies

“It might not look like it, but the Resistance is winning”: An excerpt from “Inspired” by Rachel Held Evans

One of my favourite Christian commentators and authors is Rachel Held Evans. Her latest book, “Inspired” has just been launched, and it looks fantastic (it’s on my reading list for the holidays). Today, on her blog, she provides an extended extract from the book, and it’s amazing. Read it in full here, or my extract of her extract below. And buy the book!

In light of recent news, it seems appropriate to share this excerpt from Chapter 5, “Resistance Stories,” in Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking On Water, and Loving the Bible Again:

The Bible teems with monsters.

From the sea dragon Leviathan, with its fearful scales and claws, to the rumbling Behemoth with brasslike bones and cedar-strong tail, to the mysterious giant fish of the Mediterranean Sea that swallowed Jonah whole, the creatures of our holy text practically roar and fulminate from the page.

In a vision, Daniel encountered four great beasts — one like a lion with eagle’s wings, one like a bear with three ribs in its mouth, another like a leopard with four wings and four heads, and a fourth with iron teeth, bronze claws, and ten horns (Daniel 7). The book of Revelation combines these images into a description of a single monster rising from the sea, resembling a leopard, lion, and bear, with “seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns” (Revelation 13:1 kjv). The beast is joined by a fearsome consort, a fiery-red dragon, whose tail thrashes so widely it sweeps a third of the stars from the sky.

Biblical beasts can represent several things—the awe-inspiring mystery of the natural world, the fearful chaos of the unknown, the sovereignty of God over even the most powerful forces in the universe—but in the case of the mutant creatures of Daniel and Revelation, they represent the evils of oppressive empires.

Continue reading “It might not look like it, but the Resistance is winning”: An excerpt from “Inspired” by Rachel Held Evans

The Theology of Star Wars

It’s been a hectic year in my business so far in 2018, so apologies for the lack of contributions to this blog in the past few months. Hopefully I’ll be more regular here in the rest of the year.

But for now, here’s a fantastic resource from Think Christian. It’s a compilation of insights from some top theologians and commentators on pop culture, “A Theology of Star Wars”. A great resource for youth groups, home groups and anyone who understands the difference between Tatooine and Jakku.

Download a copy here. The Force is strong with this one, I promise.

Christmas Eve Reflection: Seeing Mary’s Christmas

It might be because as the only male in my household I am surrounded by “women’s stuff” all day everyday and am privileged to be forced to see the world through a distinctly feminine (and deliberately feminist) lens, that on Christmas Eve each year, my thoughts often turn to Mary and what she must have been thinking and feeling at this time that very first Christmas so long ago.

She’d have been tired from a long, unnecessary journey, and a nine month pregnancy. She’d have been scared, just a teenager about to give birth for the first time surrounded by strangers. She’d have been concerned for her future, not yet in love with kind Joseph to whom she had been promised in marriage, and overwhelmed by all that had happened to her already in her short life.

On that night, she was an oppressed minority forcibly relocated to some ancestral town she knew nothing of by a dictatorial government who saw her and her kind as a problem. On that night, she was homeless. She would soon become a refugee, and witness to a massacre of children. And she would live to see her first born child killed savagely.

I don’t think Mary had “a silent, holy night” in mind.

And, yet, we know that she knew. This child that was to be born was no ordinary child. Her child would not live an ordinary life. He would change the world, and history, forever. That night, she knew – before anyone else did – that the Saviour was coming.

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas. I have grown to love it more as I have witnessed it through the excitement of my own children. But I’m not convinced that the message of that first Christmas is being adequately embodied in our world today – especially to those people who are precisely like Mary: pregnant teenagers, scared women, brown-skinned poor people, refugees, those in countries that oppress their citizens or have been invaded by a hostile force, the homeless and those who wonder where their next meal will come from. What does it mean to them that the Saviour has come?

Mary’s story is as important as Jesus’ at Christmas. Christmas Eve is my moment to see the greatest story ever told through the eyes of Mary, the Mother of God.